Diocese of Raphoe bids fond farewell to Bishop


By Jerome Hughes

HUMBLE, compassionate and inspirational were among the many positive words used repeatedly to describe outgoing Bishop of Raphoe, Bishop Alan McGuckian, during a series of celebrations to mark his departure from the diocese this week.


Well-wishers from Donegal’s 33 parishes, and beyond, filled St. Eunan’s Cathedral in Letterkenny on Monday evening for a Mass of thanksgiving, commemorating Dr. McGuckian’s departure as he prepares to assume his new role as Bishop of Down and Connor. Ireland’s first ever Jesuit bishop was appointed to the Raphoe diocese in 2017.

“I came here on the 9th of June and I will never forget that day. Standing in the Cathedral, I looked out on some of the same people who were here tonight for the last Mass. In Donegal, I felt so at home. I was sure that I’d be buried here.

“I’m leaving one home to go to another. There’s a real sadness but I’m also going with readiness and enthusiasm for what comes next,” Bishop McGuckian told the Donegal News.

Of course, Bishop McGuckian is now a theologian but initially studied Fine Arts at Queen’s University prior to being ordained a priest in 1984. Earlier this month, on February 2, the news broke that the diocese would be losing him. The bishop described his farewell Mass on Monday evening in glowing terms.

“My heart just soared when I heard the opening hymn. It was a deeply spiritual evening for me. There was something very special about seeing people from every parish in the diocese, and choirs from every parish too,” said the bishop.

“Tonight I was leading people on a reflection. There is a bad spirit that gets into our hearts and drags us down. All of us! It undermines our faith, our hope, and our charity.

“Then, far more importantly, there is a good spirit. There is the holy spirit that lifts us up and it’s a question of choosing the good one. It really is,” added Bishop McGuckian.


He was asked to speculate on who his replacement in Raphoe might be, and when we might expect an announcement. However, he seems as much in the dark on the subject as everyone else.

“The slow process will begin and then there really is no knowing who it will be. Please God it will be a good shepherd, as they prayed for tonight, but it’s very early days. It took over a year to fill Down and Connor so it will be a lot of months here too.”

As Dr. McGuckian embarks on his new journey as Bishop of Down and Connor, the community of Raphoe bids him a fond farewell, united in faith and gratitude for the impact he has made on their lives and the diocese as a whole.

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